Suburban Russians enjoy old-world Winter Festival

Hundreds of people from all over the Chicago suburbs came to Des Plaines on Sunday afternoon to enjoy Russian food, music and culture.

The sixth annual Winter Festival, held at Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Cathedral, 1800 Lee St. in Des Plaines, was like the Russian version of Mardi Gras, said coordinator Gordana Trbuhovich. It's one last celebration before Lent begins, she said.

“The other festive part is to chase away winter and welcome spring,” she said.

While snow fell outside, hundreds gathered inside for warm homemade Russian food including blinis or crepes filled with caviar and other sweet or savory fillings. There were also vodka tastings available to keep visitors warm while they wandered through the gymnasium of the church filled with crafts, musical performances and vendors selling everything from Russian tea to nesting dolls.

“It's a lot of fun,” Trbuhovich said of the event, which was a fundraiser for the church in its efforts to build a Sunday school.

Suburban residents came from all over for the festival.

“It's a beautiful church and a great cultural event,” said John Taflan, of Elmhurst. Taflan said he heard about the event through a friend who is member of the church and was glad he made the drive for it.

The snowy weather didn't hurt either.

“It's a perfect day for a winter festival,” said Eve Idec of Des Plaines. “The dancing, the music, this all shows so many good examples of Russian culture.”

Idec said she is Polish, but still wanted to attend the festival for the experience.

Aside from the fun of the event, others said it was a great opportunity to bring the suburban Russian community together and celebrate.

“It's kind of like a small community we have here,” said Polina Waller of Bensenville. “We all go to church, our kids meet and have play dates. We're just trying to keep the culture alive among us.”

  Masha Lush, 12, of Des Plaines wears traditional clothes during the sixth annual Russian Winter Festival Sunday at the Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Des Plaines. Gilbert R. Boucher II/
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